Crescent at the Horizon: Turkey and the European Union, Stuttgart, 20 November 2003

CRESCENT AT THE HORIZON – TURKEY AND THE EUROPEAN UNION

Stuttgart, 20 November 2003

 Mr. Chairman,

Distinguished Guests,

Introduction

It is great pleasure and honour for me to address such a distinguished audience.  I will share with you some information regarding Turkey and its endeavours to become a member of the European Union.

Turkey became part and parcel of the European history since Ottoman Turks crossed the Dardanelle to put their feet on the European continent as early as the middle of 14th century. Later, in 16th century, during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Turks were, one way or another, part of coalitions among the European countries. Either these coalitions were formed against the Ottoman Turks, or were formed by certain European countries, in cooperation with the Ottomans against another European country. In other words, the Ottomans contributed to the shaping of the European history in general and the history of the Balkans in particular.

Westernisation did not start in Turkey as part of its endeavours to join the EU. It started as a consequence of this long history of contacts with the European countries. More structured westernisation efforts date back to the beginning of 19th century in the military field and to the middle of the 19th century in the civilian field.

More recent and comprehensive reforms started by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk after the proclamation of the Republic in 1923.

Another important set of reforms was initiated within the framework of Turkey’s preparation for full membership to EU.

Major milestones of Turkey’s relations with EU are the following:

–                           Turkey applied to join what was then called the European Economic Community (EEC) as early as in 1959, one year before the Treaty of Rome establishing the EEC had entered into force.

–                           In 1963, Turkey signed with the EEC an Association Agreement with the ultimate aim of joining it.

–                           In 1995 Turkey established a Customs’ Union with the EU.

–                           The EU Council held in Helsinki in December 1999 decided that Turkey is a candidate for full membership to the EU and decided also to treat Turkey on equal footing with the other candidate countries.

–                           During the EU Council held in Copenhagen in December 2002, it was decided that accession negotiations with Turkey will start “without delay”, in case the Council is led to the conclusion that Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria of the EU.

  The commitment undertaken in Helsinki by the EU to treat Turkey on equal footing was ignored in 2002. Accession negotiations with some member countries, which have now become full members, were initiated before these countries fulfilled all of the Copenhagen criteria. In the Progress Report issued by the EU Commission regarding these countries, it was pointed out that, 2 years after the accession negotiations started with them, they still did not fully abide by the Copenhagen criteria.

Turkey brought this double standard to the attention of EU Council during its meeting in Copenhagen on 12 December 2002, but the Council turned a deaf ear to this remark of Turkey. No matter how disappointing it was, Turkey did not want to get stuck to the past and decided to look forward. It therefore embarked upon an unprecedented set of reforms in several areas including democratisation, fundamental rights and freedoms, transparency in economic dealings and elimination of corruption etc.

In addition to this unfair treatment, the EU asked Turkey to comply with an additional criterion that was not raised for the other candidate countries when the accession negotiations were to be initiated with them. It said that aligning the legislation with the acquis was not enough and that Turkey should demonstrate that the legislation passed by the Parliament is properly implemented. Turkey does not reject the idea that all laws passed by the Parliament should be implemented properly. Because, it goes without saying that any legislation is adopted by the Parliament for the purpose of being implemented. What Turkey finds it difficult to understand is why the subject of proper implementation is raised as a precondition only in the case of Turkey while it is ignored for the other candidate countries?

I now turn to what Turkey expects from the EU. The Council meeting to be held in December 2004 will be an important milestone in Turkey’s relations with EU. Turkey expects that the Council will agree to start accession negotiations “without delay” as stipulated in the December 2002 Council in Copenhagen. Does Turkey comply with the Copenhagen political criteria for the accession? I believe that it does. Because Turkey is in a much more advanced place than the place where the other candidate countries stood when they started accession negotiations. Many candidate countries completed their compliance with the Copenhagen political criteria only after they started the accession negotiations, while Turkey is being asked to complete them beforehand. Despite this unfair treatment, Turkey has covered a long distance in the elimination of the remaining discrepancies in the compliance with the Copenhagen criteria.

Achievements

 Here is a short list of reforms carried out by Turkey within the framework of compliance with EU acquis:

–                           Death penalty was abolished.

–                           Retrial in light of the European Court of Human Rights was made possible.

–                           Freedoms of thought, expression and demonstration were expanded.

–                           Pre-trial detention was limited to 4 days.

–                           Banning of political parties was restricted to exceptional cases.

–                           Teaching and broadcasting of languages other than Turkish, spoken by the Turkish citizens, was made possible.

–                           The executive functions of the Secretariat of the National Security Council were brought in line with the consultative role of the National Security Council.

–                           The construction of places of worship, including churches was made possible.The Parliamentary scrutiny was extended to cover also the use of public assets and public expenditure in the areas outside the budget, including the military expenditure.

Turkey is not unaware of its discrepancies on the misinterpretations of the legislation by some law enforcement officers or by the judiciary. But Turkey is not the only country where there are such discrepancies. We believe that they could be eliminated during the negotiations process as it happened in the case of other candidates. But, again for the sake of not getting stuck to the past, Turkey has introduced the following mechanisms in order to eliminate such discrepancies:

–                           The implementation of the reforms is made a permanent item on the agenda of the Council of Ministers.

–                           An office operating under the name of the Secretariat General for EU Affairs will present monthly progress reports to the Council of Ministers on the implementation of the National Programme.

–                           Furthermore, a special Monitoring Group has been established at the political level to overview progress in the actual implementation of political reforms. This group is chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and is composed of the Minister of Justice and the Minister of the Interior. The three Ministers are meeting regularly to define and address issues of implementation.

       –       Senior officials from the three Ministries concerned, including the Secretary-General for EU Affairs, the Head of the Human Rights Department of the Prime Ministry and the Chairman of the Human Rights Advisory Council also participate in these meetings.

Being aware of the fact that it is Turkey’s task to inform the EU public opinion about Turkey’s achievements, performance and expectation, we introduced a Communication Strategy by which we are trying to explain to the European public the strategic, political, economic and cultural advantages Turkey’s membership will bring to the EU.

          Compliance with the Copenhagen economic criteria does not constitute a pre-condition for the opening of accession negotiations. The Customs’ Union Agreement signed with EU made Turkey’s economy more competitive and integrated with the EU economy than the economies of the new member countries. Still, we continue our efforts towards integrating our economy further with the norms and standards of the EU.

           Turkey will come closer to the EU in the economic field with the structural changes it will undertake in the next decade.

           The financial cooperation between Turkey and EU is a commitment undertaken by EU through the provisions of the Association Agreement signed in 1963.  The total amount of financial support extended by EU to a country of 70 million inhabitants such as Turkey, remained as low as 1.6 billion Euros for a period of 40 years. This amount is the lowest among all countries from the Caribbean Sea to China, which benefited from the financial assistance of EU.

With these few comparisons, I now leave it to your sound judgement whether Turkey is treated on equal footing with the other candidate countries.

Essentially Turkey has fulfilled the necessary political criteria to start the negotiations. With a 2/3 of a majority in the Parliament, the present Turkish government has the determination to carry out all necessary reforms in the field of human rights and democracy to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria.

Misperceptions

However, there are several misperceptions regarding Turkey’s eligibility for the EU membership.

One of them is the question whether Turkey is a European country. I mentioned at the beginning of my statement the role that Turkey played in shaping the history of Europe. Furthermore Ottoman Turks were a major power that ruled the entire Balkans for centuries. We believe that it will not be fair to question the European character of a country, which interacted so closely with Europe for centuries.

In addition to this historical argument, the EU has already signed international documents, which indicate that the EU regards Turkey as a European country. For instance, the Article 237 of the Treaty of Rome reads as follows:

“Any European State may apply to become a member of the Community. It shall address its application to the Council, which shall act unanimously after obtaining the opinion of the Commission. …”

According to this article, the right to apply for EU membership is confined exclusively to “European States”. Turkey applied for membership in accordance with the provisions of this article. This application was accepted by EU and processed according to the procedures. In other words no objection was raised 1987 to Turkey’s European character. It will be unfair to admit in 1987 that Turkey is a European country and deny it now.

Secondly, it is difficult to explain why Cyprus which is located geographically beyond Turkey, is regarded as a European country and Turkey is not.

So I hope you will agree with me that perceiving Turkey as a non-European country cannot be easily substantiated.

Another misperception is that Turkey will bring too heavy a burden on the EU. Whereas, the recent past experience indicates that this theory is groundless. You will all remember that the same theory was put forward for Spain, Portugal and even for Ireland. It was claimed that the membership of these countries will bring too heavy a burden on EU and that millions of jobless people will invade more industrialised EU countries in search for a job. This forecast did not materialize. On the contrary, many Spaniards and Portuguese started to go back to their country after their country’s accession to the EU. Such a move of returning home is more likely for Turks than for the other countries, because cultural difference from the industrialised countries is bigger for Turkey than for countries such as Spain and Portugal.

Some people present Turkey’s case as if Turkey was going to become a full member, without any preparation, immediately after a date is fixed for the start of the negotiations. Neither the EU rules allow this to happen, nor Turkeyrequests such a discriminatory treatment. As it was the case with the other candidate countries, Turkey will become a full member only after the negotiations are duly completed. In certain cases, these negotiations take years to be completed. Turkey will have ample time to eliminate any possible remaining discrepancy while the accession negotiations will be conducted.

It is also claimed that there are cultural incompatibilities between Turks and the peoples of the EU countries. Two observations could be made on this subject: Firstly, the difference between Turkish mentality and the mentality of the Mediterranean countries is not, for instance, as big as the difference between the mentalities of Mediterranean and Scandinavian countries. Secondly, this claim contradicts with the EU vocation to embrace universal values or to make its values universal. It is not convincing to say that the EU embraces the universal values and later refuse to admit to its club a country like Turkey that  embraces the universal values.

Some quarters in Germany claim that torture is still widespread in Turkey, people do not enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms, women do not enjoy freedom and equality, Christians do not enjoy equal treatment with Muslims. I am not going to depict a rosy landscape and tell you that these claims are entirely untrue. Yes, there are isolated cases of torture, but first of all they are not more widespread, for instance, than the cases of xenophobia in Germany. Secondly the Turkish government does not deal with such cases with lesser tolerance than the German government deals with xenophobia cases. The Turkish government is committed to treat such cases with zero tolerance and it is keeping this commitment. The legislative measures are already taken to minimise such other claims and mechanism are set up to monitor the proper implementation of the laws passed. I have already mentioned earlier what these mechanisms were. The EU Commission seems to be satisfied of the legislative measures and points out that the implementation is also very important.

We will all see by the end of 2004 that Turkey will also implement properly the laws passed to eliminate any remaining discrepancy in Turkey’s compliance with the EU Copenhagen political criteria. The present government has both the power and will to achieve this goal.

Advantages for EU of Turkey’s membership

I now turn to possible contributions that Turkey may make to the EU when it becomes a full member.

The Government of Turkey believes that Turkey’s membership in the EU will be symbol of harmonious co-existence of cultures, and enriching the spiritual fabric of the EU. As a key regional actor and ally located in close proximity to many existing or potential hot spots that are high on the European and international agenda, Turkey can help enhance stability and promote welfare in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia and Middle East. It contributes to the ongoing rapprochement between Europe and Asia and hence helps extend modern values throughout Eurasia. Once Turkey becomes the member of EU, it will be able to contribute much more to the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Both Turkey and EU could achieve the afore-mentioned goals without each other’s support. But they may achieve these goals more easily and with lesser effort in case they unite their efforts within EU.

A  modern, secular and prosperous country like Turkey, with predominantly Muslim population, will be an asset for the EU and its admission to EU will be a reconfirmation of the universality of the European Culture. Otherwise Europe will be identifying itself on the confessional terms and will confine itself exclusively to the Christian countries. This will deepen the divide between Europe and the Islamic world as well as the entire non-Christian world.

           Turkey is sitting on a landmass, which is the natural route for the supply of gas and oil from the Middle East and the newly discovered reserves in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

There is at present about 10 million Muslims living the EU countries. The membership to EU of a secular country with predominantly Muslim population like Turkey may contribute to a better understanding of secularity by the Muslim population of EU. This may contribute, in its turn, to marginalize Muslim extremism in the EU countries.

EU may use Turkey’s young and hard working population as an asset to minimize the negative effects of the aging population and depopulation in many EU countries.

Entrepreneurs of ethnic Turkish origin have already established more than 80 000 businesses in various EU countries, most of them being in Germany. They created hundreds of thousands jobs in these countries. Their contribution to the national economies of the countries where they are operating will be further strengthened and these economies will continue to benefit further from the creation of such new jobs.

Turkey will become a young, dynamic and rapidly developing large market in the EU.

            Turkey’s membership to the EU will no doubt enhance the Union’s global reach, be it strategic or economic, thus its influence.

Special place of Turkish-German relations

Germany made important contributions to Turkey’s integration with Europe. It is the most important partner of Turkey in Europe. Within the modern history of Europe nations of Turkey and Germany had close relations and cooperation. Today the most important frame to realize the Turkey-German relationship is the European Union.

The direct relations between Turkish and German peoples started in 1960s. In those years the there was a labour deficit in German economy and Turkish workers came to Germany to fill this deficit. In the last forty years the number of Turkish citizens living in Germany increased gradually and today it exceeded two and a half million. Turks in Germany both contributed to German economy and they helped both nations know each other more closely.

The first generations came to Germany as employees and many Turks of the following generations provided work opportunities to German economy. Today over 60 000 Turks have established small and medium size enterprises in Germany and they provide employment to over 200 thousand people. The turnover of these enterprises exceeds 30 billion Euros.

The new generation Turks in Germany not only contributes to economy, but also to politics, education, arts, culture and sports. Many Turks adopted the German citizenship. Today both nations do not live side by side but they live together. The word “Gastarbeiter” (Guest worker) used until recently evolved to become “Mitarbeiter” (Working Together).

The highest number of tourists visiting Turkey comes from Germany. Approximately 50 thousand Germans have settled in Turkey and live there permanently.

The State of Baden-Württemberg has an important place in the Turkish-German relations. Over 400 000 Turks live in this State. 9 000 of them have their own business. Around 3 000 Turks applied to establish his own business only in 2003.  Three per cent of the businesses established in the year 2003 belong to Turks. If we think that every Turkish enterprise employs an average of 3 persons, we may conclude that around 30 000 jobs are created by Turks in Baden-Württenberg only.

The State of Baden-Württemberg has an important position in trade with Turkey. The State’s export to Turkey in the year 2002 is 1.1 billion Euros and its import from Turkey is 1.1 billion Euros. The share of Baden-Württemberg’s import in total import of Germany from Turkey is % 15.6 and its share in total export of Germany to Turkey is %16.6

                The state of Baden-Württemberg is at the same time the leading State that sends the highest number of tourists to Turkey. In the year 2002, the number of tourists from the State of Baden-Württemberg is 450 000.

One may say that 2,5 million Turkish citizens living in Germany and around 4 million Turkish Citizens living in European Countries could actually be considered citizens of EU.

Conclusion

To conclude, I would like to reiterate that Turkey’s main objective continues to be the opening of accession negotiations with the EU as of December 2004.

Turkey believes that it has ensured the “critical mass” required for compliance with the Copenhagen political criteria as far as the legislative measures are concerned.

We are committed to ensure the full and effective implementation of legal reforms.

 In order to achieve these goals Turkey needs your support and encouragement as friends of Turkey.

Thank you very much for your attention

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